Photos – Marnya Rothe
It is always difficult viewing a production which arrives with headline banners telling us how good it is. Expectations can be high, and if not achieved, can leave an audience disengaged. Blonde Poison could have achieved much more, with less fanfare.
That's not to say that this production is not worth seeing. It's greatest achievements however, are the complex issues that it raises. The moral dilemmas faced by individuals in extreme circumstances and the price that untimately has to be paid.
Based on the real life Stella Goldschlag, a German Jew, who lived in Nazi Germany, the play is told from her perspective, decades later, as she looks back and contemplates the path that she chose to take. That of becoming a "Greifer" (Jew catcher) for the Gestapo, betraying up to 3000 fellow Jews.
While she explains her actions as saving the lives of her parents, who managed to escape Germany, as well as saving her own life, she continued her actions long after they managed to leave.
After the war she was sent to trial and handed a 10-year hard labour sentence in a Russian camp. Goldschlag also had her infant child taken from her, who in later years despised her mother, and never forgave her for her betrayal.
Gail Louw's play is not the most rivetting piece of theatre, which at only 90 minutes, still seems too long, set entirely in a slightly faded apartment. It also plays heavily on the vanity, selfishness and bigotry of its lead character (Goldschlag despised her fellow Jews and hated their Orthodox look, revelling in her own blonde Germanic 'beauty'). "So not Jewish" is a compliment that she liked to hear the most, as she exclaims at one point. All this results in making it extremely difficult to feel any compassion for the woman.
However, Louw has managed to highlight the complexity of a multi-layered character (with all her faults) and attempts to provide some background to her motivation.
Director Jennifer Hagan and actor Belinda Giblin have looked at this complexity and given it some life. Under Hagan's guidance Giblin gives a thoughtful, precise performance investing her all in the woman without judging her actions.
Blonde Poison succeeds not in its re-telling of a story, but in its examination of a individual who chooses evil to survive, then finds that the cost is ultimately too much to live with.
Strange Duck Productions
by Gail Louw
Directed by Jennifer Hagan
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Lawler, VIC
Dates: 1 – 11 June 2016
Tickets: $47.90 – $64.90
Bookings: 8688 0800 | www.southbanktheatre.com.au